Surprisingly around this time of year, we have a lot of flowering going on in the greenhouse here at Wellfield. I wanted to highlight some of these plants because they are often overlooked in our area since they bloom at different times of the year than we are used to. Another reason many people have not seen some of these flowers is because the plants do not get as much sunlight in a house as they do in our greenhouse. Most of our plants are able to keep their normal growth cycles since they are always exposed to the natural light cycles. Artificial lights and shaded houses can sometimes prevent them from flowering.
Flowering plants are currently the most abundant group of plants on the planet. Most plants that you can think of are considered a flowering plant. In the context of a garden, we do not often regard them as flowering plants because they do not have large showy flowers like we prefer. Plants such as grasses, all broadleaf trees (except Gingko), all vines (excluding one genus), and almost all aquatic plants are technically flowering plants. A lot of these flowers are small, not involved in our daily lives, emerge at a different time than what we are used to, and the grass we see everyday is usually cut so we usually do not see the flowers unless it is an ornamental. Even with ornamental grasses, the flowers are not obvious.
Now that I got through sciency part, let’s get into the interesting flowers that are more unknown to us due to our climate. If you have been to Wellfield, you might have seen some of our succulent plants that we usually place in the sensory garden. A few species we have on display will flower during the summer. One that might be a bit shocking to a lot of people is aloe. The species that we grow here has a flower stalk lined with orange flowers (the picture used for this blog article is of our aloe with a flower stalk just beginning to open). There are different species and subspecies of aloe that flower differently; for example, I have one at home that looks the same but has yellow flowers instead.
Our other flowering succulents are: Agave (Agave americana), and Jade (Crassula ovata), and a cactus that I am unsure of the identification on. This species of Agave blooms after about twenty years and will die after it sends up a massive flower stalk; thankfully, they produce a lot of babies from underground roots as well. The large jade plant we had unfortunately died (we have smaller ones still alive) due to overwatering from the long wet period we had early in the summer of 2021. This time last year, it was covered in tons of small white flowers. It is really overlooked as a flowering plant due to them needing a large amount of light and it is very difficult to supply it in our northern Indiana homes. All cactuses flower (ours has massive red flowers during the summer) but some flower during the winter or spring. This is another plant that requires so much sunlight that the flowers are not usually seen in this climate since they are often grown inside as a houseplant.
I’ll finish this up with a couple more flowering plants that are either more attractive than they are given credit for, or that maybe you did not know they flowered. A lot of people may know that Rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus) flowers because it is in the mint family, which is a family of flowering plants. But when they flower, they are absolutely covered in the blooms (and guess what they smell like). There are rosemary plants that flower blue, pink, and white. It’s another one that flowers in late fall so most of us have not seen it. The last type of plant I want to include on this list are palm trees. Some of you may have seen these and not even realized what it was. These flowers are what get pollinated to give us dates from date palms. The flowers themselves are not too attractive, but the fruit are definitely worth the eye sore.
If you have any of these plants and you have not seen them flower yet, hopefully you will! A lot of times the problem is not being in natural light or not getting enough light. Most plants flower based off of the day/night cycle, and depriving them of that can often deprive us of their beautiful flowers.
Cody Hoff, Lead Horticulturist